The Neighbors Just Love Carrots
New York Times 6/21/2009
By C. J. HUGHES
MODERN maps call it Clinton, but in the late afternoon, Midtown Manhattan’s far western edge might be better described as the Circle NYC Ranch.
As the sun dips low, and winds howl off the Hudson, 11th Avenue comes alive with dozens of clip-clopping horses, pulling carriages bearing flowers and lined with dimpled velvet seats.
Many of the steeds are calling it quits after shifts in Central Park, and their homes are tucked along the neighborhood’s side streets. All of the 225 horses registered as being in harness in New York shack up in stables between West 37th and West 52nd Streets. Now, they may be about to get company.
Clinton Park, a 29-story luxury rental proposed for 770 11th Avenue, will include a spacious ground-level home for 22 horses belonging to the New York City Police Department, under the terms of a deal being hashed out between Two Trees Management, its developer, and the city. The designer is Enrique Norten, the principal of TEN Arquitectos.
The horses, from Troop B, which patrol Times Square, need to vacate their home on Pier 76 to make way for an extension of Hudson River Park, says Jed Walentas, a Two Trees principal. The troop has been there since March 2007, when it built 28 stalls in a vehicle impound facility after relocating from Pier 63 for a different park expansion.
The plans for Clinton Park feature 27 stalls and a rectangular area ringed by paddock-style fencing where horses can exercise under a double-height ceiling, according to Two Trees.
The 40,000-square-foot space will also have offices, lockers, a kitchen and suites for hostlers, or civilian caretakers; it will either be leased or bought as a condominium, Mr. Walentas said. Police officials did not return calls for comment.
Next to it will be a four-level 330,000-square-foot showroom for Mercedes-Benz Manhattan, which is currently on West 41st Street. The car dealer bought its space as a condo, though terms weren’t disclosed.
The last commercial spot, a 5,500-square-foot berth on West 54th Street, will go to a theater or other not-for-profit group, according to Community Board 4, which will help select it.
But the developers are holding their horses. Two Trees still needs to line up lenders for the $550 million project, Mr. Walentas said, though the foundations are poured, and the city approved the zoning requests last month.
“It’s certainly a difficult environment,” Mr. Walentas said, “but it will definitely be built,” and probably by 2012.
Upstairs, Clinton Park is to contain 900 units, studios to two-bedrooms, ranging from 500 to 800 square feet, with stone counters, hardwood floors and high-end appliances. Prices haven’t been set yet. Fifty of the units will also have spacious terraces, positioned along a narrow spine of roof that will ascend, staircase-like, in the shape of a reverse Z.
Though Clinton Park’s height required special zoning permits, neighbors were amenable because the building will mask the unsightly AT&T switching station behind it, Mr. Norten, the architect, said.
In any event, “the way to get views of the river for the most units is to create a diagonal,” he said.
But not everybody wants to live in a barn, or over one, Mr. Walentas admitted. Hay deliveries are frequent, and then there are the “negative externalities” of smell. Indeed, other developers putting up apartments balked at the chance to put stables in their buildings when approached by the city, he said.
But the plan had a receptive audience in David Walentas, Jed’s father and a Two Trees principal, who owns a horse farm in Bridgehampton, N.Y.
And many city dwellers are fond of horses, which is why there will be tall windows by the stable.
“There’s something both nostalgic and elegant about a mounted division,” Jed Walentas said.
Despite comfy new digs, however, Troop B’s horses may be better off far away, said Edita Birnkrant, the New York director of Friends of Animals, an advocacy organization. The city’s cars and noises can startle horses, causing them to bolt and hurt themselves and people, said Ms. Birnkrant, who would prefer that both police officers and carriage owners stopped using them.
“No matter what kinds of improvements you make,” she said, “the environment will not improve, because you cannot change the nature of New York.”
But others say that bustle allows urban horses to be lavished with attention, which a quiet country farm can’t provide, said Stephen Malone, the executive director of the Horse and Carriage Association of New York, which represents the drivers of 68 carriages.
“Millions of people view them every day,” Mr. Malone said. “They are the equine celebrities of 59th Street.”